First Fall Run

It’s the first day of Autumn, and that’s awesome for a runner like me.

Let’s get one thing clear.  I’m not a fair-weather runner.  I say that with all respect and love for the fair-weathers out there — I was one, too, once.  I know that life.  You ponder running in the summer when it’s too darn hot and you say, “well, when the weather cools off a little bit and it doesn’t feel quite so much like my skin is actually boiling off of my body, maybe then I’ll get out and run.”  Or maybe you made the old standby resolution at New Year’s when it was colder than my black, black heart outside and realized that perhaps the forbidding temperatures in the single digits and teens weren’t quite your speed and that, perhaps, April was in fact a much better time to start the whole running thing.

I get it.  But I can’t live that way anymore.

Something happens when you push past the three mile mark in running.  Up until that point, you consider yourself a jogger, maybe, or a sprinter, or maybe somebody who does a little running on the weekends or as part of a bigger exercise regimen, but past 5k it becomes serious.  The training wheels come off.  The drudgery of your bi-daily run has been replaced by some snarling, feral need to run.  There’s no putting it off til April or October.

No, the all-weather, all-season runner knows that he (or she, obvs) will continue to run whether it’s hot enough to literally bake cookies in your buttcrack or cold enough to make buttcrack ice cream.  The first hot days arrive in May and I think, with all the grim inevitability of that deep-voiced guy from the movie previews, it begins.  The last balmy night in November passes and I know that Winter is coming.

The temperature in the daytime climbs steadily from seventy, to eighty, to ninety, and still we’re out there.  The clever ones run before dawn or after dusk, but the lunatics are out there in the full light of day, roasting alive, logging their miles and waiting for September.  But even the nightcrawlers begin to suffer in Summer.  The humidity dragon sneaks in through the door you left open and makes your seventy-degree morning feel like ninety, sees you back at the house following a quick three miles looking as if you’ve just swum the English Channel.  The washing machine gets a workout like it’s never known.  Your significant other turns up her nose when you come in for a post-run smooch.  (Okay, maybe she does that year round, but in the summer, you can identify.)  You start to hate running again.

But today it’s September 23rd, and that means Fall is here, and Winter is coming.  And here in Atlanta, boy, does it feel like it.  This morning it was a delightful 57 degrees, cool enough to put a chill in your fingertips before you get warm from the exertion, but not so cool you even have to think about long sleeves or gloves or any of the mess that comes when the temperature really starts to drop.  Cool enough to slip a windbreaker on the sprout as I strapped him into the stroller with me (yeah, he wakes up at 5:15 now to go run with me… it’s a problem).  Cool enough to make you feel alive with the touch of Autumn and pumpkins and all that other stuff that fills the roughly three weeks before Winter sets in.

If there’s a perfect temperature for running, it may well be 57 degrees.  After months and months of cooking inside my skin just from stepping out the door for a run, 57 degrees feels like an ice bath after a sunburn.  A cool drink of water after a mouthful of habanero salsa.

I only wish the fall weather would last longer, but as any Atlanta resident knows, we get maybe three weeks of it before the bottom drops out.  Time to suit up and get out there.

Some Stories You Should Read


This post is a shameless plug for some fiction written by myself and other authors.

Chuck Wendig, over the past three weeks, organized a 3-part Collaboration Challenge over at his website.  I played each week, writing the first 500 words of my own story (There Are Things in the Well), writing a second 500 words for another story (Clank), and finally writing the conclusion of a third story (A Recipe for Disaster).

I’m happy to say that both of the stories I collaborated on aside from “A Recipe for Disaster” were picked up and concluded by other authors.  Yesterday I reposted the finished version of “There Are Things in the Well“, and today I saw that there have actually been two part 3’s written for “Clank.”  In no particular order, you can find them here (Clank 1) and here (Clank 2).

It’s been a fascinating exercise, first of all, to pick up and continue the work started by another author, and second, to see what strange new directions other authors take with material I’ve started.  In short, a really cool little idea.

Thanks to Angela Cavanaugh, George Kaltsios, Underastarlitsky, RoseRed, Matthew Gomez, and Clay Ashby for their unwitting collaborations.

Character Consideration

Working on the edit today, I realized a thing.

When I set about the not-insignificant task of changing Accidentally Inspired from a stage play to a novel, one of many changes I orchestrated on the front end (read: before I actually got into the draft and all the pieces started coming off like a bunch of janky flywheels) was the addition of a love interest.

It seemed natural.  Still seems natural.  She’s not out of place in the narrative.  I think I gave her a totally plausible raison d’etre or however you say that fancy French thing.  I like her character, but I’m not like in love with her character (that would mean I had invented a character too perfect and would therefore be a Bad Thing).  She plays a role in the story but is not, strictly speaking, critical to it.  All in all, for a late addition to the party, I’m pretty pleased with her.  However, I’m afraid that she may be entirely out of place in the novel.

I can’t be sure.  I waited a good six, seven weeks to dive in and start the edit, which I think has been enough time for me to distance myself from the prose.  However, in reading this character, I begin to wonder.  When I originally conceived of this idea, oh, let’s just call it ten years ago, the principal ten characters sprung immediately and organically into being.  Each played his or her role perfectly, fitting together like jigsaw pieces.  Now, revisiting the story, changes are inevitable.  As I’ve noted before while I was writing the draft, in its translation to the long-form novel, the story has sprouted new legs and arms, a tail and a few new tongues.  New characters sprung up like strangling weeds, and strangely, each seems to fit the new narrative just as well — if in a smaller capacity — as the originals.  To be fair, the love interest fits in there, too.  But to stick with the puzzle metaphor, the thing is not finished yet.  I’ve got the edges and the corners built, and I’m working my way in to the meaty center, and a lovely picture of a foggy London Bridge is taking shape.  Problem is, the love interest sure looks like a foggy bit of bridge or possibly a bit of misty waterfront, but it’s possible, just possible, that she’s a piece of the Golden Gate instead.  You know, she’d fit the theme, but it’d be wrong to say she was intrinsically a part of things.

Problem is, of course, that now the demon of doubt has its scouring claws in my brainmeats over the whole thing, and now my entire take on the character is tinged with the unmistakable feel of overthinking.  Am I resisting her because she’s not a part of the original narrative and thus feels unnatural?  Is she just fine where she is and she’s only tripping my radar because I’m hypersensitive to imperfections in the draft?  Maybe she’s truly honestly unnecessary and I’m ignoring my genuine justified doubt over her in a bid to cater to a hypothetical audience I’ve not even earned yet?  Probably, as with so many things involved in this process, it feels murky because the mushy center of this narrative cake hasn’t finished cooking yet, and I won’t really be able to iron out an answer until I clean up the story a good bit.  Maybe my keyboard needs more chemicals to properly ponder the question.

One way or another, I’m going to have to make a call on this girl sooner or later.  Problem is, having woven her somewhat intricately into the draft, I’m terrified at the prospect of having to remove her thread.  If there’s nothing wrong with her and I cut her out, then I’ve defaced this tapestry ostensibly for nothing.  On the other hand, if she’s poisoned and I don’t cut her out, she could rot the whole project from the inside.

Like so many other things, the best I can do for now is flag her for further consideration and toss her on the pile of “deal with this later.”  That’s a pile of problems I started in the draft and which is growing at an alarming rate since I picked up the edit.  I imagine that in just a little while it will develop its own gravity and pull me through a ripple in spacetime where my story will stretch out to infinity and the only sustenance I’ll have is my own failed, mangled prose, squealing like that belly-alien thing in Total Recall for me to put it out of its misery.